New Jersey, Illinois Top List of States With More People Moving out Than in

New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut topped a list of states that saw more residents moving out than arriving from other states in 2018, continuing a trend of people leaving the Northeast and the Midwest for growing cities in the Mountain West and South, according to a study released Wednesday.

The annual National Movers' Survey from United Van Lines, a St. Louis-based moving company, showed that New Jersey had a higher share of outbound moves than any other state.

About 67 percent of moves in the Garden State were outbound, making it one of four northeastern states in the survey's top 10 states for outbound migration. Connecticut (62 percent), New York (61.5 percent), and Massachusetts (56 percent) were the others.

In the Midwest, Illinois had the highest share of outbound moves, with 66 percent of relocations going out of state and just 34 percent coming in. Other Midwestern states in the top 10 for outbound migration were Kansas (58.7 percent), Ohio (56.5 percent), Iowa (55.5 percent) and Michigan (55 percent).

The United Van Lines survey, which is based on household moves handled by the company in the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., adds to a growing body of data showing stagnant or declining population in northern population centers in favor of the Sun Belt and Intermountain West.

Several factors are driving the overall trend, according to Michael Stoll, an economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"The data collected by United Van Lines aligns with longer-term migration patterns to southern and western states, trends driven by factors like job growth, lower costs of living, state budgetary challenges and more temperate climates," Stoll said in a statement. "Unlike a few decades ago, retirees are leaving California, instead choosing other states in the Pacific West and Mountain West. We're also seeing young professionals migrating to vibrant, metropolitan economies, like Washington, D.C. and Seattle."

Another top moving company, Atlas Van Lines, also released a report on domestic migration over the past year. As in United Van Lines report, it found that Illinois (61 percent), New York (61 percent), Connecticut (60 percent) and New Jersey (57 percent) all placed in the top 10 with respect to the share of outbound moves.

According to Atlas, the state that led the nation in share of outbound moves was West Virginia, where 62 percent of relocations were away from the state. The United survey did not have sufficient data on West Virginia movers to include the state in its rankings.

While not a perfect reflection of overall population totals, the migration patterns identified in the moving surveys tended to mirror a list of states that with negative population growth rates. Both Illinois and West Virginia, for example, have struggled in recent years with population loss to other states.

The population of Illinois has shrunk by 157,000 people since 2014, mostly due to domestic outmigration, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, a free market think tank. Last year was Illinois' fifth consecutive year of population decline, and it recently dropped to the nation's sixth-most populous state after Pennsylvania. Only West Virginia has had more consecutive years of population contraction, with six.

While retirees' moving to warmer climates explains some of Illinois' outmigration, economic factors appear to be playing a much larger role. Last year, about 24 percent of outbound moves from Illinois were due to retirement, but 46 percent were for a job and another 22 percent were for family reasons, according to the United Van Lines survey.

The story was much the same in several northeastern states such as New York, where retirement was the primary reason for 26 percent of outbound moves, while job opportunities accounted for 44 percent and family considerations accounted for 19 percent.

On the other side of the ledger, the top inbound states were largely concentrated in the South and Mountain West, where job growth and lower living costs have been attracting transplants for years. Oregon, which had 3,346 total moves handled by United Van Lines, experienced the second highest percentage nationally, with 63.8 percent inbound moves. That was followed by Idaho (Idaho (62.4 percent), Nevada (61.8 percent) and Arizona (60.2 percent).

According to United Van Lines, the top inbound states of 2018 were:

  1. Vermont
  2. Oregon
  3. Idaho
  4. Nevada
  5. Arizona
  6. South Carolina
  7. Washington
  8. North Carolina
  9. South Dakota
  10. District of Columbia

The top outbound states for 2018 were:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Illinois
  3. Connecticut
  4. New York
  5. Kansas
  6. Ohio
  7. Massachusetts
  8. Iowa
  9. Montana
  10. Michigan